Dogs Who Eat High Fat Snacks Are at Risk for Pancreatitis, by Lee Pickett


Q: Max, our 7 year old terrier mix, lost his energy, stopped eating, and started throwing up. His vet diagnosed him with pancreatitis and hospitalized him for treatment. How can we prevent this from happening again?

A: Pancreatitis is an inflammation (“-itis”) of the pancreas, the organ in the abdomen that secretes two important groups of chemicals: digestive enzymes that break down proteins, fats, and carbohydrates; and the hormones insulin and glucagon which regulate blood sugar.

In dogs with pancreatitis, digestive enzymes do not flow to the intestines to digest food as they should, but instead begin to digest the pancreas and other organs in the abdomen.

This causes severe abdominal pain, loss of appetite and energy, vomiting, and diarrhea. But it can be much worse: some dogs permanently lose their pancreatic function and need injections of insulin and digestive enzymes, while others die.

Most of the time, the cause cannot be determined. However, many cases of pancreatitis develop after ingesting high-fat human foods. Overweight and middle-aged dogs are at increased risk, as are certain breeds, including schnauzers and miniature terriers. Other risk factors are abdominal trauma, Cushing’s disease, pancreatic tumors, and exposure to certain drugs and toxins.

To avoid a recurrence of pancreatitis, reduce Max’s weight if he is overweight. Feed him only foods recommended by your veterinarian, and never feed him table scraps or high fat snacks.

Q: Gertie, our indoor and outdoor cat, has what looks like a small breathing hole in the center of an area of ​​swollen skin on her neck. Sometimes it looks like a little alien is moving up the hole to breathe. What is it and what should I do about it?

A: Looks like Gertie might have a Cuterebra larva in her skin. The best way to deal with it is to have your vet remove it.

Cuterebra (cute-ah-REE’-brah) is a botfly that looks like a bumblebee but does not sting. This fly parasitizes rodents and rabbits by laying eggs near their nests, usually during summer and fall.

When cats and other animals bite around the nest, an egg hatches into a tiny Cuterebra larva that clings to the cat’s fur and then enters the body through the nose, mouth, or other opening. The larva migrates around the cat’s body and usually settles in the skin, where it digs a hole to breathe.

Without intervention, the larva will grow to an inch or more, come out of the cat’s body, and fall to the ground. There, it will build a protective cocoon around itself and mature into an adult botfly that continues the life cycle.

Less often, Cuterebra larvae migrate to the eyes, respiratory tract, or central nervous system, where they cause much more serious damage.

Your vet will remove the Cuterebra larva and treat the wound. It is important that the larva is removed intact to avoid further problems, so do not try to remove it yourself.

You can prevent a recurrence by keeping Gertie indoors. If this is not possible, treat it with a broad spectrum pest control such as Revolution Plus or Bravecto Plus.

Lee Pickett, VMD, practices pet medicine in North Carolina. Contact her at

Photo credit: huoadg5888 on Pixabay

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